Ideas of March
- Blogging, Freelancing, Personal, Writing
- amsterdam, blogging, ideasofmarch, twitter, writing
- 12:01pm on Wednesday 30th March, 2011
“We need a blog revival.” So says Chris Shiflett, web security expert and one of the Analog co-op, in his post Ideas of March—and he’s not the only one. His call for a move away from our modern ADD Twitter habits and a return to our online beginnings as blogroll afficianados seems to have struck a chord with ex-bloggers around the world, and several thousand posts have appeared in the last few weeks announcing their owners’ intentions to resurrect their personal blog wasteland throughout March.
As you might have guessed from the surprise lurch into activity here, I am announcing my intention to join Chris and everyone else in blogging more, not just in March (for I seem to have joined that particular bandwagon a little too late) but in general.
Second time lucky
Of course, there was an attempt at a blog revival last year when Anton Peck announced Project 52, an initiative that asked participants to sign-up and declare their intention to publish at least one blog post for every week of the year. While it gained traction at the start of 2010, signing up over 600 people—I even signed up myself, managing, um, six weekly entries—it unfortunately faltered after the first couple of months, ‘rebooted’ in March, and then went quiet until the 2011 challenge was announced back in December. This year there seem to be only around forty participants and a mere 100 entries so far, suggesting that while setting a schedule might seem like a sensible piece of motivation, in practice it’s extremely tough to stick to and can easily become just another pressure on your conscience.
Aside from the ease with which thoughts can be shared on Twitter and never make it any further, the biggest factor in my own lack of activity has been work. Although I don’t do a lot of freelance development work, I like to keep my hand in on the PHP front, and so I had a fairly steady stream of work in 2010. The end result was a combination of no time in which to blog, and no energy with which to do it. Add to that the pressure of our impending relocation to Amsterdam and unhappiness with this current design, and it’s hardly surprising that I haven’t posted anything of note since August.
But since the beginning of the year, things have changed.
We gave up trying to sell our house and instead went down the rental route, which has the dual benefit of being faster and leaving us with a base in the UK to which to return should things not go as expected in The Netherlands. And I officially closed the door on my freelance business, offloading hosting clients to other local freelancers and declining every offer of work since the start of 2011.
The final step in our major life change takes place later this week, when we hand the keys over to our rental agent and board a plane headed for Amsterdam and our new life as bicycle-riding, apartment-living, city-dwelling Europeans. It’s a change that will mean less commuting for me, and less weekend work for my wife—and therefore a substantial increase in the amount of quality, family time we can spend together with the children as we get to know our new home.
Aside from writing more, I think the move to Amsterdam and the need to share how the children are growing up might be the push I finally need to purchase a Flickr Pro account (or alternative photo host, since Yahoo! don’t necessarily seem to be the most trustworthy of online guardians for my personal data) and start taking and posting more regular photography.
When I redesigned and relaunched this site in 2009, it included some cURL and XML cleverness to retrieve various parts of me from around the internet—what I was currently reading, listening to, watching or bookmarking—and insert them into my database for display in the site footer. There are a few obvious drawbacks to this approach: you’re reliant on (several) third-party services for keeping your own site up-to-date, and at the mercy of their APIs; and you also end up with all that data duplicated in two different locations.
So, while I still like the idea of pulling in a lifestream, I think for the next iteration of the site I will turn to something like ThinkUp, which mitigates against both of the issues mentioned above while also giving me a bunch of useful tools for manipulating and displaying all of that data.
For the last six months or thereabouts I have been considering redesigning, and my Evernote “Notebook” is filling up with a combination of design inspiration/planning (currently I’m heading down the online newspaper route, responsive design and all) and notes on potential technology choices (I still haven’t decided whether to abandon the fairly expensive ExpressionEngine, and if I do, whether to use an alternative blog platform or just roll my own). The current design is also a factor in the lack of content; when you’re not happy with how an article will look when published, it’s hard to work up the motivation to write it at all.
Tearing it down and starting from scratch is also an option (cf. Andy Budd’s new undesigned but happily reactivated blog, one of the very first I read when I became interested in web design), although I suspect that would niggle at me just as much as the current design. Perhaps I will receive a burst of inspiration from our new Dutch surroundings and design something with tulips and steep staircases, who knows.
Finally, as a commitment to myself, I have also purchased a license for Scrivener, one of the most popular writing tools available for the Mac. Writing this post I’m finding that it really fits with my way of thinking, allowing me to capture random thoughts and bits of sentences, write short pieces independently of each other, and then re-order the article into the right sequence.
So, that’s a summary of my intentions, and I sincerely hope that this year I manage to live up to them. If you, dear reader, feel similarly motivated to reawaken your own blog, here are some simple instructions lifted from Chris Shiflett’s original post:
- Write a post called Ideas of March.
- List some of the reasons you like blogs.
- Pledge to blog more the rest of the month.
- Share your thoughts on Twitter with the #ideasofmarch hashtag.
Looking at that list now, I realise that I have neglected to list my own reasons for preferring blogs to the new breed of lifestream-enabling apps and sites like Twitter, Facebook, Gowalla and the like. Aside from the reasons listed by Chris, Drew and others, I can add:
- More people blogging would rid my Twitter feed of the multi-tweet rant to which some people seem to be prone. Any time you feel yourself considering how best to explain yourself over a series of tweets, you really should write a blog post instead and link to it; create something permanent and searchable and facilitate archived conversation.
- I want to be a better writer—and, like any skill, the only way to improve it is to keep doing it. Twitter is pretty much the exact opposite of encouragement to write more.
So, there it is—my declaration of intent: blog more, not just in March but as an ongoing habit.